As Kobe Bryant gets set to embark upon his 17th season in the NBA, even he would say his best days are behind him. At 34 years old and with 5 championships under his belt, Kobe has put a ton of miles on his body that not even the fanciest of surgeries can erase. But make no mistake about it. The Los Angeles Lakers are still his team and no matter who the front office brings in, that isn't going to change anytime soon.
Even if those brought in are point guard Steve Nash and center Dwight Howard, two names that are almost as big as Kobe's himself.
"I got a question earlier about whose team this is," Bryant told reporters at the Lakers media day Monday. "I don't want to get into the, 'Well, we share …' No, it's my team. But I want to make sure that Dwight, when I retire, this is going to be his. I want to teach him everything I possibly know so that when I step away this organization can ride on as if I never left."
Howard, easily the most talented big man in the game, is a stark contrast to Kobe. Where Bryant is focused and driven, Howard is loose and happy-go-lucky. Where Kobe demands respect and revels in the spotlight, Howard has at times disappeared in the big moment and just wants to be liked. The teacher-student dynamic between the two talents is plainly evident and it's one that Howard is looking forward to.
"I'm willing to go through that process, learn from one of the greatest to ever play the game and I think it will be great," Howard said. "I think learning from a guy like Kobe, I know he's going to be tough on me but I expect that and I want him to do that. So, I'll take all the heat that he's going to give me because I know at the end of the day that's going to make me a better player and a better person and it's going to make this team better."
For Nash, who has had past experience deferring to other All-Star talents like Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas and Amare Stoudemire in Phoenix, it's no question that Bryant is still the man in LA.
"I think this is Kobe's team," Nash said. "For the media's perspective, this is Kobe's team. But anyone who's ever played on a basketball team, it's also our team. The team needs to share in that responsibility. Kobe can't do everything. He's going to be great at what he's great at, and the rest of us got to pick up the pieces that get to us. This is undoubtedly Kobe's team. He's been here his whole career. He's won championships. And he's the best player on the team. We got to be there for him every day, so it's essentially our team as well."
With the end of his playing days steadily approaching, time isn't on Bryant's side. But for now, the Lakers still run to the tune of number 24, and that isn't going to change this season.
James LeBeau is a sports contributor for CraveOnline Sports and you can follow him on Twitter @JleBeau76 or subscribe on Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.
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